family: a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head
Every Sunday, the Rainbow Mansion has a “family dinner”, in which friends and extended Rainbow-community members come over to enjoy a meal with the house residents. Each week, a different member of the house is in charge of preparing a meal for the house residents and guests. This week, Andrea was in charge of cooking, and she made a traditional Venezuelan dish. It took hours for her to make, so I spent almost the entire day in the kitchen with her. We shared stories about our families, both good and bad. There wasn’t much small talk. Although we have only known each other for a couple of weeks, I find that the conversations I have with Andrea are those I have only with my closest of friends. We’ve quickly connected, as we share similar world-views despite our vastly different cultural backgrounds, and we are both interested in engaging in intellectual discussions (even if it is on Saturday night at a party). I’ve found this connection with others in Silicon Valley, including all of the residents of Rainbow. This aspect of Rainbow illustrates the belief that the co-op is an “intentional community”, and because of the diversity of age, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds, I would call it an intentional extended family. Several people passed through the kitchen throughout the evening to help Andrea prepare the meal by offering to do different cooking tasks.
As I set the large dining room table with as many plates as I could fit, a nostalgic wave came over me. I felt like I was about to have dinner with my actual family. Not my “nuclear family” – my extended family. It felt like a Sunday dinner, in the middle of the summer, at my grandmother’s house, with all of my aunts and uncles, cousins, and other relatives. The cross-generational nature of The Rainbow Mansion is palpable at large meals. It was especially noticeable this Sunday, because an older man, who is considering moving into the mansion, came over to meet all of the residents.
I think part of the reason I feel so at home here is because of the large age differences between different members of the house. We all come from such different backgrounds, but the traditional familial roles remain in a different way. While the 21st century has caused many young people to move away from their blood-related family to pursue careers, this is an opportunity to feel like you always have a true extended family close by. This is so much more than “young kids living together to save money on housing” – this is truly a reconstructed model of how people can live and grow together within a “family”.